Oriental Medicine Journal Late Summer-Earth 2011
Our medicine has some beautiful and poetic ways of describing the things that happen in our bodies, such as Liver Fire Rising, and Damp Heat in the Lower Burner. I have always thought of this manner of speaking as metaphor or mnemonic to help us understand and remember OM physiology and diagnostics.
Recently, however, I had an experience that showed me an entirely different dimension of our medicine. At least one of the poetic phrases of OM refers to something very real and tangible. I had the privilege to be holding my beloved Kitty when he died. The moment of Yin and Yang Separating was an actual, physical, palpable event. Kitty was in a coma, completely limp, with nearly imperceptible heartbeat and breath. As the moment of Yin and Yang Separation neared, his qi became light, buoyant, and extremely beautiful and began to rise from his physical body. Then there was a tiny shudder, though his body never moved, and the rising qi dissipated. It took me a few moments to realize that what I had just experienced was the Yang qi rising and separating from the Yin qi that remained in my arms, and that the shudder I felt was the moment of separation.
When I described this to a colleague, she mentioned that she, too, had experienced the physical manifestation of Yin and Yang Separating, three times. I find it ironic that I spent well over ten years in medical settings in my prior career as a psychologist and never once heard anything about the moment of death being special or sacred or awe-inspiring, from psychologists, psychiatrists, medical doctors, nurses, or any other health care personnel. This is especially ironic because this was the time when Elizabeth Ku?bler-Ross published her ground-breaking work about the psychological processes through which people pass as they approach death, and everyone in the health professions was talking about death and dying, which was now an acceptable field of scientific study. The possibility that death could be beautiful and not something to be dreaded was never mentioned.
This experience makes me wonder whether we in our profession have honed senses that go well beyond what other people experience. If that is so, then we have something very special to contribute to our culture’s understanding of human experience, not just about death but about other experiences of qi as well.
These thoughts are echoed in the two articles we are publishing in this issue of Oriental Medicine Journal. Our first article,
by Dongcheng Li and Mark Ricard, reviews the literature on acupuncture and sports injuries. Li and Ricard argue that our
profession can and should contribute a unique perspective to the field of sports medicine. They compare Western Medicine and TCM treatment strategies for sports-related injuries and examine why acupuncture is helpful in the treatment of pain.
Our second article, by Ellen F. Franklin, is basically a meditation on trees as a symbol of our connectedness with the universe. Franklin explores strategies to deepen our connection with the natural world, noting that our bodies are microcosms of the universe, not only through the microcosmic orbit but also because we are made of the same material as the stars and because sound vibration unites our bodies and the Earth body.
Finally, we end with a book review by Frank Yurasek of Diagnostics of Traditional Chinese Medicine, edited by Zhu Bing and Wang Hongcai. Yurasek considers Diagnostics “one of the most comprehensive assessment and treatment strategy descriptions contained between two covers.”
From the stillness of the center,